Prospects for increasing diversity in the Iowa legislature (post-filing edition)

Now that the deadline to compete in the Democratic or Republican primaries has passed, the field of candidates is set in most of the 100 Iowa House districts and 25 Iowa Senate districts that will be on the ballot this fall.

It’s time for a first look at chances to increase diversity in the state legislature for the next two years. The proportion of white lawmakers is unlikely to change, while the proportion of women could move in either direction.

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Abbie Weipert sets up a competitive Democratic primary in Iowa House district 77

I had a feeling this open seat would prove too tempting for just one Democrat. Abbie Weipert announced at the Johnson County Democratic Convention on March 12 that she will run for Iowa House district 77. North Liberty Mayor Amy Nielsen declared her candidacy a few weeks ago, hours after Democratic State Representative Sally Stutsman made her retirement plans public.

Weipert’s campaign is on the web here and on Facebook here. I enclose below the statement she released today as well as information about her experience and and political priorities. Scroll to the end of this post for a map of House district 77, which includes North Liberty, Tiffin, Oxford, and other areas in western and southern Johnson County.

Bleeding Heartland will not endorse a candidate in this primary. Nielsen, Weipert, or others supporting their campaigns are welcome to post guest commentaries here. Before writing, please read the site guidelines on advocating for Democratic candidates.

Republicans Paula Dreeszen and Royce Phillips are also seeking to represent House district 77. The winner of the Democratic primary will be favored in the general election. House district 77 contains 7,736 active registered Democrats, 5,681 Republicans, and 7,070 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. President Barack Obama won more than 58 percent of the vote here in 2012, and Bruce Braley outpolled Joni Ernst by 9 points in the district despite the 2014 Republican wave.

Final note: I sincerely appreciate Stutsman’s sense of fair play in letting her constituents know last month that she did not plan to seek re-election. Iowa has an unfortunate bipartisan tradition of state lawmakers waiting until a day or two before the filing deadline to announce their retirement. That tactic allows insiders to hand-pick a replacement without giving other politically active people time to consider running for the open seat.

UPDATE: Forgot to add that the Iowa House Democrats sent out Nielsen’s campaign announcement. At this writing, the have not sent Weipert’s press release, which suggests that party insiders favor Nielsen.

SECOND UPDATE: I sought comment from Weipert on whether she was active in any of the presidential campaigns before the Iowa caucuses. She was a precinct captain for Hillary Clinton in Clear Creek Amana. Nielsen and Stutsman were also active Clinton supporters.

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